Pål Moddi Knutsen grew up in a fishing village in the north of Norway; when he stumbled across his mother’s old accordion, he began to take the musical experiments of his childhood seriously. His debut Floriography (2010) earned two nominations for the Norwegian Grammies Spellemannsprisen. Subsequently, Moddi turned down a grant from an oil company, accepted one from a-ha and went on tour with Angus and Julia Stone.
Where Floriography is beautifully but sullenly stuck in the waltz, Set the House on Fire flows more freely and brightly (with magnificent screaming fits). According to Moddi, his second album was less carefully planned than the debut and, instead, is about playing with sounds. Apart from guitar, cello, violin, viola, drums, bass, accordion and piano, it also features children laughing, Einar Stray singing, a Wurlitzer and what Moddi calls “magical boxes”. Thematically, Moddi examines courage, alienation and systems of belief.
The album meets the listener in Norwegian and takes them home, “Heim”, to a kitchen of farewell coffee. Delicate guitar-playing and Moddi’s informal tone make for oddly comforting melancholy. Subsequently, the first single “House by the Sea” lovingly explores concepts of (be-)longing: “They say home is a place where you’re needed / then I am home now but I am leaving / to feel my feet being kissed by the seaweed / and I’ll be silent and kiss it back.”
Both music and lyrics lay astonishing traps throughout the album. “Let the Spider Run Alive” alternates between dark bouts of violent strings and quieter but urgent vocals, which then crescendo. A wild-eyed examination of faith, “The Architect” escalates Tiger Lou-esque chord progressions, electronic elements and sounds into a lovely mess. And just before its lyrics drift towards sweeping heroics, Moddi surprises by “pissing rivers, spattering storms.” In turn, “Soon You’ll Be Somebody Else” references a Shakespearian metaphor and mentions a “house with a yard full of flying fish.”
One of my favourite songs on the album is “Run to the Water”, a duet with Kari Kamrud Jahnsen of Farao, which continues the red thread of water imagery and exposes urban solitude. The last song explains why, sometimes, houses need to be set on fire and leaves us with: “I’m all yours, fast asleep on the Northern Line.” We may be lost in cities growing taller in a universe constantly expanding but at least we have Moddi for company.
Review by: Anne Malewski
Album Release Party in your Living Room?
Ahead of the release ‘Set The House On Fire’ (Propeller Recordings) on 25th March (UK) / 8th March (ROW), MODDI is asking his fans to suggest their living room as a venue for his official album launch party.
The party can be anywhere in the world, all you need to do to win the chance to host the special concert is post an image of your living room online. Entries can be submitted via Instagram or Twitter (just tag your entry #livingroomonfire) or Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/floriography).
All entries should be specify your city, and the winner will need to be available on 10th March for the concert to take place. The winner will be announced on 5th March.